- Theft on Saturday was first of an animal in park's 40-year history, spokeswoman says
- Penguin was found hiding under a pier
- Dirk spent night under veterinary observation before being returned to his enclosure
- Three men face charges of trespassing, stealing, unlawfully keeping a protected animal, police say
A trio of men faces charges after allegedly stealing a penguin from Sea World on the Gold Coast of Australia's Queensland and then bragging about it online.
Dirk, one of the park's 29 fairy penguins, was found under Southport pier Sunday night, frightened but apparently not hurt.
The theft on Saturday night was the first of an animal in the park's 40-year history, the park's spokeswoman Renee Soutar said on Monday.
Police alerted Sea World after someone saw pictures of the penguin on Facebook allegedly posted by the three men, who were releasing it nearby.
Sea World then reached out to local media to get the public's help in finding the penguin. Someone then spotted the exhausted Dirk hiding under the concrete pier.
The seven-year-old bird wouldn't have lasted long in the wild, Soutar said. He was born in captivity, and although he was used to the climate, the foot-high penguin would have little defense against predators like sharks, cats or dogs, she said.
Dirk spent the night under veterinary observation before being returned to his enclosure where he joined his mate Peaches.
Police arrested then released the three men, who will appear in court on May 2 on charges of trespassing, stealing and unlawfully keeping a protected animal, said Queensland Police spokesperson Rachel Clark.